The human race and the human mind are quite well developed and we are considered to be one of the most developed in terms of knowledge processes, analytical faculties and the power to reason; added to this is the power to study and experiment on any or all issues that crop up.
The amazing aspect of REINCARNATION is that it has almost universal acceptance extending from the most conservative and restrictive religions to the newest spiritual and new age cults.
Broadly speaking, there are two theories that are prevalent in most religions:
- The monotheistic doctrine arises from the supremacy of one god and follow the belief that there will be a day of reckoning when there will be a confrontation with the supreme holy being or god; on this occasion the meeting is basically to prepare a balance sheet of the good deeds and bad to arrive at an equitable assessment of the rights and wrongs of the individual being assessed.
It is also believed that the holy god will then pass judgement as to whether the individual should be sent to burn in hell or sent to heaven where every good thing is provided.
Under the understanding of such beliefs, it is assumed that there is no tomorrow or anything after you have been assigned to Heaven or hell; there is no afterlife, ruling out totally the concept of reincarnation; in other words, it is a dead end for one soul with no rebirth or reincarnation,
- The other doctrine which pertains to the belief that there is a cycle of life following death and it repeats eternally; here, it is assumed that there is no accountability or day of reckoning as in the monotheistic kind. The followers of these religions and cults believe firmly in life after death.
There is no single god who is the ultimate judge since they believe in life after every death. The only similarity with the monotheistic schools of thought is that the quality of the next life that is granted to you will solely depend on the same assessment or judgement that was the case in religions with the monotheist doctrine.
Hence, it will be seen that the concept of judging your deeds is prevalent here too but with a different future course of action.
Because of their belief in rebirth, their belief in reincarnation is almost automatic. Thus, these religions are able to provide justification for the bad luck or otherwise in the present life as a result of the Karma of their previous life; such reasoning is also meant to deter the people to refrain from a life of sin or bad deeds to avoid punishment either by confinement in hell or by facing all kinds of problems in their future life.
Thus, reincarnation is also a deterrent punishment to keep one from sinning.
History of Reincarnation
It is strongly believed in Hinduism and associated spiritual texts and religions that are offshoots of the Hindu faith, that the existence of the human is in the form of purusha that is the physical existence in a body according to the cycle which is supposed to cover 8400000 different forms of life before coming back to the human form; the atmaa is the soul or the non-physical being.
Most scholars agree that the concept of originated from the Indian spiritual writings which were part of the Brahmana writings with more refinements and inputs through succeeding centuries. The Upanishads lent more understanding and force to the doctrine which was properly designed and formulated by religions of the east.
Thus it slowly took a firm hold on the followers of Jainism, Buddhism and other regional religions; Buddhism, as is well known, was spreading like wildfire throughout the Asian continent with South East Asia, China and South Asia being the main centers where it gained a firm hold and followers.
Its spread in China in particular resulted in its influence moving deep into China and gradually penetrating the believers of Taoism in China; this was around 3 BC.
Meanwhile, the amazing belief had also been moving laterally and horizontally into various other religions particularly the Mediterranean region which had its own ancient religions propagating the same concept of rebirth but with a slightly different concept and explanation.
Greek Platonism averred that moving of the souls into earthly bodies was a fall from grace from the celestial world and that reincarnation was a means to purification and liberation; the doctrine of reincarnation had thus penetrated the Greek philosophy in the form of Neo-Platonism.
Even the ancient Egyptians believed in the travel of the soul after death; their embalming of the dead bodies was an attempt to permit the body to follow the soul and is contrary to the popular belief of karma and movement of the soul from one body to another.